31: Bolivar, Part I

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Simón Bolívar is one of the giants of Latin American history, with statutes, portraits and monuments to him everywhere from Panama to Tierra del Fuego, and even an entire country—Bolivia—bears his name. But how much do you really know about him? Where did he come from, what was Spanish America like at the time he arose, and how did he begin his incredible journey to liberate three-quarters of a hemisphere from one of the world’s oldest colonial powers? Although Bolívar clearly was the right man at the right time, the Spanish empire in the Americas was moribund and brittle by the beginning of the 19th century, with political, economic, social and racial tensions running deep. Into this complicated world came Bolívar, a man of wealth and privilege who claimed to speak for the forgotten man. He was also a passionate man, scarred forever by the premature death of his wife, and prone to flamboyant excess in both his personal and professional life.

In this episode, the first of a three-part series on Bolívar’s life and career, Dr. Sean Munger finally delves into one of the most important stories of the decade of the 1810s. You’ll learn about the history of the Bolívar family and how they made their money in New Spain; you’ll meet arrogant revolutionaries in exile, a passionate woman who made Bolívar a man at age 15, indecisive Venezuelan autocrats, and vengeful Spanish military captains intent on punishing treason against their king. This episode begins a colorful pageant of history that will ultimately take us the length and breadth of Latin America as Bolívar, sometimes right, sometimes wrong but always sure of himself, takes on an entire empire and rises to the height of power.

Show Notes & Additional Materials